During the United Way, “Seeing is Believing Bus Tour” one of our stops was at the Carling Family Shelter. This shelter houses a total of 44 families and it is ALWAYS FULLY BOOKED! They actually have a waiting list for families that are in need of the use of the facilities year round. I was surprised to find out that 75% of the people living at the Carleton family shelter are children; the shelter has anything between 50 and 100 children living there at any given time. UnitedWay Ottawa funds the Carling Family Shelters’ Lunchbox Program for kids aged 4-18. The Lunch Box program provides healthy lunches for over 50 kids ages 4-18 each and every day.
The work of the shelter is to help families get through the difficult immediate times, to provide a safe and secure environment for families while they get back on their feet. The average stay for families in the shelter is 6 to 8 months.
One of the biggest challenges that the Carling Family Shelter faces is keeping kids in their local schools while they are in the temporary shelter. The advocacy required to keep children in their school after they’ve become homeless and have been forced to move to a family shelter involves enormous effort.
Families have access to staff twenty-four hours a day to ensure their immediate needs are met and to obtain information and support as required. A Housing Support Worker assists families in obtaining housing, families also have access to on-site services such as a Nurse Practitioner, Children and Youth programming, VAW counseling, Healthy Babies Healthy Children, multi-cultural support services, and other services as required and needed.
It is pretty amazing to see how United Way Ottawa acts as the umbrella organization to so many programs. The coordination of social services across agencies is a huge effort that they do wonderfully.
I hope United Way continues to reach out to the community and organizes many more tours so that we can continue to learn about the wonderful things they do in this city.
Stay tuned for the 3rd blog post about the “Seeing is Believing Tour” where I will share my experience at our next stop in the tour; the Boys and Girls Club.